Why weren't any sanctions imposed on India for not signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

  • 2
    More context please: why are you asking about India, and hasn’t India received sanctions in the past for conducting nuclear tests?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:07
  • Recently sanctions were imposed on North Korea. So just wanted to know what were imposed on India Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:21
  • Possible duplicate of Why is North Korea criticized for having Nuclear Weapons?
    – Brythan
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:34
  • 5
    @Brythan: I don't think this is a duplicate, although may be related.
    – sharur
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 17:39
  • 11
    @adithskv DPRK did sign the non-proliferation treaty. And then developed nuclear weapons anyway while lying about it. That's rather different from simply not signing it in the first place.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 22:39

6 Answers 6


An entire international body designed for restricting trade of nuclear materials was created in response to India's first test, and the US did impose sanctions on India for their tests in the 90's. The reason India specifically hasn't been punished much is because they otherwise have a good nuclear record and claim to want stronger non-proliferation treaties.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: The NSG is an export control group which was created directly in response to India's first nuclear test, the amazingly named Smiling Buddha. The NSG is tasked with tracking and controlling materials that can be used to directly or indirectly create nuclear weapons. Since this certainly would have stopped imports of certain items controlled by the NSG, you can say that India(and many other nations) received sanctions indirectly.

In regards to India's nuclear tests in the 1990's, the US strongly condemned India and imposed pretty strict sanctions on them in 1998. In the following years, the US held talks with India regarding their nuclear program, though were unsuccessful in convincing India to reverse their program fully.

India's Nuclear Record: As was explained in an answer to a similar question, the situation in India is different that in other nuclear-possible countries, such as North Korea, since they have essentially adhered to the treaty since their tests. In the early 2000's, India and the US began working on an agreement which would allow India to begin working with the US to develop nuclear energy, with a good part of the rationale being that India has 'de facto' status as a non-proliferation nation.

Essentially, India's policies regarding no-first-use of the weapons, lack of apparent desire to create a large stockpile, and claims that they want to sign a stronger version of the NPT meant that other nations didn't see much need to sanction or otherwise punish India for their weapons program.


There were sanctions imposed on India in response to India conducting its first successful nuclear test. Article here (from 1998) reported the announcement.

  • Additionally, these sactions were lifted by the U.S. following India's support of the U.S. in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 13:26

Why weren't any sanctions imposed on India for not signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

This is an absurd question.

If some one is slapped by sanction for not signing a treaty, then why broach that treaty in the first place?

A sanction can be imposed for not abiding by the rules of the treaty while being a signatory. But, that is also too far fetched. Partners of that treaty can only expel that signatory, nothing else.

  • 5
    Is there evidence fairness or free-choice are meaningful forces in international relations?
    – user9389
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 15:53
  • @notstoreboughtdirt, NATO alliance, WTO, etc.
    – user17569
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 15:56
  • 1
    I was being kinda factious; being nice is nice, and lots of governments like foreign aid, anti war crimes and corruption stuff, and NPT probably does fit in with them, but there certainly are also treaties and organizations made to promote some interests above others. And I would have put NATO and the WTO right at the top of that list.
    – user9389
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 20:42

I think all the answers so far are ignoring the herd of elephants in the room: India* is not a threat to anyone, India has a decent human rights record, India is unlikely to supply nuclear weapons or technology to jihadists, &c.

*Feel free to substitue Israel in this if you like.

  • 1
    India is not a threat to anyone -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user17569
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 19:54
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    India has a decent human rights record - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_India#By_state
    – user17569
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 19:55
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    India is unlikely to supply nuclear weapons or technology to jihadists - don't need to ... reuters.com/article/us-india-uranium/…
    – user17569
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 19:55
  • 1
    India is not a threat to anyone - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Nepal_blockade
    – user17569
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 20:01
  • 6
    @why: 1) Re human rights, I said decent, not perfect. 2) Re threats, both your links seem to be as much about India protecting itself from spillover violence in neighboring countries. 3) Independent smugglers are not the same as state actors.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 20:47

India, Pakistan obtained their nuclear weapons in Cold War period. Pakistan is strictly backed by U.S. India have close ties with U.S. because, from U.S. point of view, it is some sort of counter-weight against China.

Also, some another reason not to do it - there is arguments for it, Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and have tensions with India, so India do it for defense.

So, answer is:

  • in Cold War U.S. and USSR have many other things to do, without these sanctions.
  • it have rather close ties with U.S.
  • North Korea example is full analogic, despite the fact, that North Korea do NOT have close ties with U.S.

There is also such complex question as Israel nuclear weapons, but it is much more custom situation, hardly comparable with India/Pakistan/North Korea examples

  • OK but why don't other countries compel India, Pakistan or Israel to sign the treaty? Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:32
  • I think this is like WW2 results - it is unspeakable. Nuclear weapons already exists. And about "other countries" - this should be strong countries, but Russia/China/U.S won't do it - they all have good or better relations with India. And who other want to oppose them? Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:36
  • There is a known Golda Meir phrase "We do not have nuclear weapons, but we'll use it if there will be need". For nowadays it is one of "secrets that are widely known" in fact. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:41
  • 1
    @adithskv Israel is deliberately vague as to whether it has nuclear weapons, and if so for how long. That isn't very compatible with the articles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
    – origimbo
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:43
  • Hmm. Maybe you're right. Will edit my answer Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 10:45


There were multiple sanctions against India. Canada was the first after some test in 1974, the U.S. then imposed some other sanctions for some other nuclear test in 1998, followed by Japan and 12 countries followed suit. Then the U.S. imposed some other sanctions against its space program linked to their nuclear ambitions.

While India continued to state that the test was for peaceful purposes, it encountered opposition from many quarters. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed in reaction to the Indian tests to check international nuclear proliferation.[22] The NSG decided in 1992 to require full-scope IAEA safeguards for any new nuclear export deals,[23] which effectively ruled out nuclear exports to India, but in 2008 it waived this restriction on nuclear trade with India as part of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement.[24]


Strong criticism was drawn from Canada on India's actions and its High Commissioner.[31] Sanctions were also imposed by Japan on India and consisted of freezing all new loans and grants except for humanitarian aid to India.[32]

Some other nations also imposed sanctions on India, primarily in the form of suspension of foreign aid to India and government-to-government credit lines.[33] However, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia refrained from condemning India.[33]


The thing is that sanctions aren't really effective, and also India is a powerful country you can't sideline, India will find other partners if you completely try to sideline them. Had they imposed much worse sanctions, it wouldn't have made much of a difference because since nuclear powers will maintain their nuclear arsenal, see North Korea, it doesn't make sense to hurt diplomatic relation with a big country like India.

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